Notes on Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”

Allen Ginsberg gives us picture after picture of the lost minds, “the best minds of my generation”, images of entire lives lived and lived out and used up, flashes of light and life like the images in Whitman, who also gave a great catalogue of the souls that make up the soul of America. But Ginsberg’s is a vision of doom, of lives driven to madness and slavery.

“Moloch”, the god of America now, bashes in their brains and robs them of imagination, so that for all the opulent variety of these many souls so many will be crushed or drained that there will be nothing but a drab windowless uniformity, grey walls grey opinions, passive acceptance of war and child-murder and police control and gratitude even for their own slavery, even as they weep for their lost innocence and youth, even as they hardly realise what they weep for.

If Moloch hasn’t defeated you, if you’re still alive with imagination and hope and vision for mankind then you’re among a fortunate few. But it’s enough. Even to know one other soul to call to, across the abyss, is enough. Ginsberg calls to Carl Solomon: “I’m with you!” And together they can be great writers, even just in their own minds, since they share a vision and even work together at the same great typewriter.

And even among the worshippers of Moloch, you can if you believe in your own great and vast and singular vision see that “everything is holy!” And just to share this one truth – shout it: “Holy! Holy! Holy!” – is the entire business of art in these times.

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3 Responses to Notes on Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”

  1. John W. Leys says:

    Very good commentary. Ginsberg is one of my favorite poets.


  2. rickkoster says:

    ‘“Moloch”, the god of America now, bashes in their brains and robs them of imagination’ … absolutely

    Liked by 1 person

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